Cal Ripken Jr. (Trading Card DB)

July 10, 2001: Cal Ripken Jr. steals the All-Star spotlight in Seattle

This article was written by Gary Belleville

Cal Ripken Jr. (Trading Card DB)The summer of 2001 was a great time to be a Seattle Mariners fan. The Mariners were the best team in baseball at the All-Star break, and they were well on their way to securing their fourth postseason appearance in seven years. Their 63-24 record had them in first place in the AL West by a whopping 19 games.1

The excitement level in the Pacific Northwest ratcheted up another notch when Seattle hosted the 72nd All-Star Game,2 giving the city the perfect opportunity to show off its gorgeous two-year-old ballpark, Safeco Field.

Eight Mariners made the All-Star team, including starters Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martínez, John Olerud, and Bret Boone.3 Ichiro, a seven-time batting champion in the Japan Pacific League, had become the major leagues’ most exciting player in his first year in the United States. He went on to win the AL batting title, Rookie of the Year, and MVP awards, and lead the majors in steals in 2001. But in the midsummer classic, the Seattle storyline was largely overshadowed by the incomparable Cal Ripken Jr., who was playing in his 19th and final All-Star Game.

Ripken and Tony Gwynn had announced their respective retirements within days of each other in June, giving fans an opportunity to say goodbye to the future first-ballot Hall of Famers.4 With Ripken having been elected as the AL’s starting third baseman and the injured Gwynn5 named an honorary member of the National League squad, the All-Star Game served to kick each player’s farewell tour into high gear.6

Ichiro, helped by Internet voting and paper ballots cast in Japan for the first time, had become the first rookie to garner the most All-Star votes.7 In recognition of the continued growth of international baseball, the ceremonial first pitches were thrown by five Hall of Famers who were born outside of the continental United States: Luis Aparicio (Venezuela), Orlando Cepeda (Puerto Rico), Ferguson Jenkins (Canada), Juan Marichal (Dominican Republic), and Tony Pérez (Cuba).8

The pitching matchup featured a pair of veterans who went on to win the 2001 Cy Young Awards in their respective leagues.

Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks took to the hill for his fourth All-Star start in seven years.9 The 6-foot-10 southpaw was running away with the major-league lead in strikeouts in 2001; he finished the season with an incredible 372 punchouts, the third-highest figure since 1901.10 Johnson had compiled a 130-74 record in his 10 seasons with the Mariners, and he received a warm welcome from the Seattle fans when he was introduced.11

Roger Clemens got the start for the AL. The red-hot New York Yankees hurler had won his last eight outings to take the major-league lead with 12 wins. He was making his second career All-Star Game start and the first since his stellar 1986 campaign with the Boston Red Sox.12

Clemens faced a potent NL lineup that included the top four home-run hitters in the majors: Barry Bonds (39 homers at the break), Luis Gonzalez (35), Sammy Sosa (29), and Larry Walker (27). Despite the firepower on both teams, Edgar Martínez predicted a low-scoring affair because the late-afternoon shadows at Safeco Field were known to make it difficult for hitters to see the baseball.13

As the AL infielders warmed up before the top of the first, shortstop Álex Rodríguez – another former Mariner − approached Ripken and asked him to swap positions. Ripken, who hadn’t started a game at shortstop since September 29, 1996, initially resisted the move. He relented moments later when he saw AL manager Joe Torre motioning him to play short.14 Rodríguez’s classy move, which had been cleared in advance with Torre,15 allowed Ripken to surpass Ozzie Smith for the most career All-Star Games (15) at shortstop.16

Ripken didn’t have any fielding chances in the one-two-three top of the first and he returned to third base for the next inning.

Ichiro, wearing Johnson’s old number 51, led off the bottom of the first. The speedy right fielder pulled a grounder down the first-base line that was fielded by a diving Todd Helton. From his knees, Helton flipped the ball to Johnson covering first, but Ichiro beat it out for an infield single. He easily stole second, although he was unable to advance any farther.

Both Johnson and Clemens pitched two scoreless innings before the managers initiated a steady stream of relievers from the bullpen. Ichiro was the only batter to reach base against Johnson, while Clemens retired all six batters he faced, including the NL’s four big boppers.

Ripken led off the bottom of the third against South Korean native Chan Ho Park. As Ripken stepped into the batter’s box, Seattle fans rose to give him a standing ovation. Before Park could deliver a pitch, the Iron Man stepped out of the box to quickly acknowledge the crowd with a wave. Moments later, he slammed the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence and into the NL bullpen. “I felt like I was flying around the bases,” Ripken recalled after the game.17 “Then the curtain call. … It was just a continuation of those goose bumps.”18

The AL extended its lead to 2-0 in the fifth on second baseman Jeff Kent’s two-base throwing error and an RBI single by Iván Rodríguez.19

After taking his warm-up tosses at third base for the sixth, Ripken was replaced by Troy Glaus.20 Torre’s delayed substitution allowed the Seattle fans to give Ripken another standing ovation.

The game was briefly halted to allow Bud Selig to present Ripken and Gwynn with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award for their outstanding careers.21

When play resumed, Paul Quantrill of the Toronto Blue Jays surrendered a double to Kent and a single to Lance Berkman, giving the NL three hits in the game and putting runners on the corners with one out. Although Berkman’s grounder off Derek Jeter’s glove was the senior circuit’s final hit of the game, Kent scored on Ryan Klesko’s sacrifice fly.22

Vladimir Guerrero of the Montreal Expos batted next. The free-swinging slugger fouled a 2-and-2 pitch from Stanton down the right-field line, snapping his bat near the knob. The broken bat flew through the air and struck third-base coach Tommy Lasorda, who was following the path of the ball. The 73-year-old former Los Angeles Dodgers manager fell awkwardly to the ground and rolled over on his shoulder.23 “We all gasped when he went down and held our breath,” said NL manager Bobby Valentine. “But when he got up and started laughing, we broke up.”24 Lasorda received a huge cheer from the crowd; two pitches later Guerrero flied out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Jeter and Magglio Ordóñez became the fifth pair of hitters to club back-to-back home runs in an All-Star Game.25 Their solo blasts off Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lieber put the AL out front, 4-1.

Seattle’s Jeff Nelson and Troy Percival of the Anaheim Angels tossed scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, respectively, setting the stage for Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki in the ninth.

The 33-year-old Japanese hurler had won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000, his first season in the United States, and he already had 29 saves in 2001 to tie him for the major-league lead. Sasaki, facing a “barrage of flashbulbs” from the home crowd,26 retired the NL in order, preserving the victory and giving the junior circuit its fifth consecutive win and 10 of the last 13.

Seattle’s Freddy García, who pitched a one-two-three third inning, picked up the win. For the first time since the save became an official statistic in 1969, teammates were credited with the win and a save in an All-Star Game.27 All eight Mariners saw action in the contest,28 which was the first instance of eight players from the same team appearing in a midsummer classic.29

Both teams used 29 of their 30 players, with each manager holding back just one pitcher in case the game went into extra innings.30 “My priority is to get everyone in the game,” Torre admitted.31 One year later that approach backfired when the NL ran out of pitchers after 11 innings and the All-Star Game ended in a controversial tie.

But everything went smoothly on this particular evening, and the festive atmosphere was capped when Ripken was announced as the game’s MVP for his thrilling home run.32 The Baltimore Orioles stalwart did his best to explain why the game had been so special. “Maybe it’s the success of the Mariners, this brand-new beautiful stadium, the people of Seattle, all the Mariners on the team, Tony Gwynn and myself exiting the game,” Ripken suggested. “It was a great celebration for baseball. It’s one memory that I will cherish forever.”33




This article was fact-checked by Anthony Escobedo and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted and Unless otherwise stated, play-by-play details were taken from the game video on YouTube.



1 Although Seattle went on to win 116 games in 2001, tying the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most wins in a single American or National League season, the euphoria didn’t last much longer. The Mariners had the oldest roster in the AL that season and their championship window slammed shut after they were eliminated by the New York Yankees in five games in the best-of-seven ALCS. Seattle failed to make the playoffs for the next 20 years. At the end of this period, it was the longest playoff drought for any team in the four major professional sports in North America. Ryan Divish, “Mariners’ Postseason Drought Is Now the Longest in the Four Major Professional Sports,” Seattle Times, January 2, 2018,

2 Seattle was hosting the All-Star Game for the second time. The first All-Star Game in the Emerald City was at the dreary Kingdome in 1979. Seattle’s only All-Star Game representative that year was first baseman Bruce Bochte.

3 The four reserves from the Mariners were center fielder Mike Cameron and pitchers Freddy García, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Jeff Nelson.

4 Josh Dubow, “Farewell Tour Hits Full Stride,” Missoula (Montana) Missoulian, July 11, 2001: D2.

5 Gwynn had been hampered by a hamstring injury. Associated Press, “Padres Activate Gwynn from Disabled List,” Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2001: D5.

6 Patrick Reusse, “Handling the Home Run Hype,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 10, 2001: C1.

7 Associated Press, “Ripken, Mariners All-Star Headliners,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 3, 2001: D1.

8 The ceremonial first pitches were reminiscent of the 1982 All-Star Game in Montreal. Prior to the first midsummer classic played outside of the United States, 13 ballplayers from around the world – including Aparicio, Cepeda, and Marichal − performed similar honors. Associated Press, “Seattle Fans Get Fill of Hometown Players,” Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, July 11, 2001: 4C.

9 Associated Press, “All-Star Notebook,” Bellingham (Washington) Herald, July 11, 2001: B4.

10 As of the start of the 2023 season, the only American or National League pitchers to record more than 372 strikeouts in a single season (since 1901) were Nolan Ryan (383 in 1973) and Sandy Koufax (382 in 1965).

11 Matt Peterson, “Seattle’s Freddy Garcia Gets the Win and Kazuhiro Sasaki the Save, But Cal Ripken Jr. Homers to Ignite the AL,” Kitsap (Washington) Sun, July 11, 2001: C1.

12 Clemens went 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA in 1986 en route to winning his first of seven Cy Young Awards.

13 Bob Condotta, “Safeco Could Cast Shadows on Stars,” Tacoma News Tribune, July 10, 2001: C1.

14 “7/10/01: 2001 All-Star Game @ Safeco Field, Seattle,” YouTube,, accessed June 16, 2001.

15 Associated Press, “The Long and Short of Ripken’s Night,” Hartford Courant, July 11, 2001: C2.

16 As of the start of the 2023 season, Ripken still held the record for the most appearances at shortstop in an All-Star Game.

17 Elliott Smith, “A Most Fitting Finish,” Olympia (Washington) Olympian, July 11, 2001: D1.

18 Dubow, “Farewell Tour Hits Full Stride.”

19 Kent ranged to his right to field the ball before throwing it into the dugout.

20 Ripken grounded out in his only other at-bat (against Mike Hampton in the fifth inning).

21 In his speech, Selig lauded Ripken for his record 2,632 consecutive games played streak and for being one of only seven players to have at least 3,000 hits and 400 home runs in the big leagues. (As of the start of the 2023 season that number had swelled to 12 players.) Selig praised Gwynn for his .338 career batting average, his eight batting titles, which tied him with Honus Wagner for the most in NL history, and his NL-record 18 consecutive seasons of hitting .300 or better.

22 Klesko’s sacrifice fly came against Yankees lefty Mike Stanton, who relieved Quantrill after Berkman’s hit. Quantrill gave up two hits and one earned run in one-third of an inning.

23 Lasorda hadn’t managed in the big leagues since he suffered a heart attack in June 1996. Alan Stowell, “Tom Lasorda,” SABR BioProject,, accessed June 19, 2023.

24 Elliott Smith, “All Eyes on Emerald City,” Olympia (Washington) Olympian, July 11, 2001: D1.

25 As of the end of 2022, back-to-back home runs had been hit seven times in an All-Star Game: Al Rosen and Ray Boone (1954), Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle (1956), Steve Garvey and Jimmy Wynn (1975), Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs (1989), Jeter and Ordóñez (2001), Alex Bregman and George Springer (2018), and Giancarlo Stanton and Byron Buxton (2022). “MLB All-Star Game Home Runs,” Baseball Almanac,, accessed June 19, 2023.

26 Chris Barron, “Great Day to Be an M,” Kitsap (Washington) Sun, July 11, 2001: C1.

27 Bob Friend of the Pittsburgh Pirates got the win in the first of two All-Star Games played in 1960. His teammate Vern Law was retroactively credited with a save in that contest. As of the end of 2022, the only other time it occurred was in 2019 when Masahiro Tanaka and Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees turned the trick.

28 Ichiro went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and Mike Cameron went 1-for-3 (he hustled to turn a bloop hit into a double). Bret Boone, John Olerud, and Edgar Martínez all went 0-for-2. Freddy García pitched a perfect inning to earn the win, Jeff Nelson gave up a walk and struck out a batter in a scoreless inning of relief, and Kazuhiro pitched a perfect ninth inning (one strikeout) to earn the save.

29 Associated Press, “All-Star Eyes on Ichiro,” Longview (Washington) Daily News, July 10, 2001: D2.

30 The only players who didn’t get into the game were the NL’s Curt Schilling and the AL’s Eric Milton. Smith, “All Eyes on Emerald City.”

31 Associated Press, “All-Star Eyes on Ichiro.”

32 Ripken also won the MVP Award in the 1991 All-Star Game in Toronto for his game-winning three-run homer.

33 Smith, “All Eyes on Emerald City.”

Additional Stats

American League 4
National League 1

Safeco Field
Seattle, WA


Box Score + PBP:

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All-Star · 2000s ·